PNG leader Marape confirms son arrested over money in suitcase

The PNG Post-Courier's front page picture on Monday of the money in a suitcase
The PNG Post-Courier's front page picture on Monday of the money in a suitcase. Police have impounded the cash as the national elections began this week. Pictured is one of two men arrested in connection with the money. Image: PNG Post-Courier screenshot APR

RNZ Pacific

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape has confirmed reports his eldest son is one of two men arrested in relation to a suitcase found with US$440,000 at a domestic airport in the Highlands province of Hela last weekend.

The arrests occurred after police became suspicious of the suitcase amid heightened security in preparation for the general election which began on Monday.

One of the men arrested is Mospal Marape.

James Marape told media as he cast his first vote on Monday that his son had no association with the luggage.

“The person who was transporting the money is the director of a construction company in Hela Province. Knowing there are checks at the airport, he brought the money, for him he felt the money was legal,” Marape said.

“He was transporting money for his company. He was being picked up and police felt the money was suspicious on the eve of an election.”

Marape dismissed rumours the money was linked to his campaign.

“I don’t need the fund for the elections. Police have kept the fund.

‘Voting here without fund’
“I’m voting here without the help of the fund. Some think that it’s a link and influenced by me, far from it.

“That fund is not needed. We’re running elections on Friday.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape
PNG Prime Minister James Marape … “Some think that it’s a link [with the elections] and influenced by me, far from it.” Image: RNZ Pacific
“The message to my people is vote with no condictions. And as sitting prime minister, personally I want people to vote whether they value the office of prime minister or not.”

In an interview from Tari with the Post-Courier’s Miriam Zarriga, Marape said that rumours going around were “false” and that he “does not need the money”.

“People are saying the money was meant to assist me. I can confirm that it is not my money, I do not need that money and I did not charter that flight,” Marape said.

“It is a company charter and for safety reasons they run checks at the airport, because my son was in the vicinity, police rounded up all of them.

“My son was part of a security detail that was providing security to reporters who had travelled to Komo and the Hides Gas site.

‘Two nights in the cell’
“Just like any citizen, if police feel you are a suspect, they will lock you up and the process will follow.

“Just because he is my son, I have never gone to the police and demanded his release, just like everyone else he stayed two nights in the cell, initiated bail and now the due process is being followed.

“It is not illegal money but money for the company [which] uses the money to pay their workers. Most people don’t prefer banks because of fees.

They would rather receive cash.

“I have gone to polling without the use of that money as I have no use for it.”

Police confirmed that the main suspect in the incident had been allegedly released without any charges laid.

However, the money was still being held by police as an exhibit.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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